After the French failure to complete the Panama Canal, there was tons of equipment rotting away in swamps, shorelines, rivers, jungle and along the old rail lines.  When the French gave up, this equipment lay in position for many years until the United States took over the project.  Much of this equipment was salvageable enough to put it back on in service...Belgium Locomotives, dump/dirt cars, other rolling stock, hand operated dirt dump cars, large excavators and ladder dredges.  The Isthmian Canal Commission rebuilt some of this equipment and entered it in the "Catalogue of Equipment", purchased for use by the Isthmian Canal Commission between July 1, 1904 - January 1, 1913.

This story is about two Belgium Ladder Dredges named "Badger" and "Marmot".  Both found, rebuilt and used on the Pacific side diggings.  They were made of an iron hull, non-propelling with the dimensions of 112"2" length; beam 29' 6"; draft, 9'.  They had a fuel-oil capacity of 597.2 barrels.  2 main engines vertical tandem compound, 12 1/2", 25 1/2", 14 1/2" stroke - French make.  3 boilers, Scotch marine, 96" diameter, 103" length; 180-horsepower.  Equipped with American-made air pumps, circulating pump, boiler-feed pump, bilge pump, and fresh-water pump. 

Ladder equipped with 32 buckets of 15 cubic feet capacity, capable of digging to the depth of 45'.

Equipped with a galley and mess room and quarters for 8 officers and crew on upper deck.  Equipped with dynamo and wired throughout for electric light.

According to the "Catalogue of Equipment", two Ladder Dredges built in Belgium in 1884 -1886 were rebuilt by the Balboa Shipways (Shops).  The cost of rebuilding and appraised value of hull and machinery, $35,000 - $58,624.50 each.  There are four Belgium Ladder Dredges shown in the "Catalogue of Equipment" that were rebuilt.  Numbers 1 and 5 on the Atlantic project and on the Pacific side of the Isthmus, the "Badger" and "Marmot".  The two others were rebuilt at the Atlantic Dry Docks.

Today the "Badger" and "Marmot" are still visible even after their end many years later.  At low tide from the Diablo Spinning Club, the hulls of these old diggers can be seen along with three self propelling mud barges called "Clapets".  The Clapets were used as dirt and muck haulers of the day, just as the modern super scows are used by Dredging Division today. Clapets can be found along the banks of of the Canal from Far Fan Beach, Amador Beach, under the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, in Balboa Harbor, and on the Atlantic, Gatun Lake and the ocean shores.  All us Zonians have run across one or two of them in our years, whether we knew it or not. All lay in their eternal resting places.  A couple of friends just returned from Panama last week and snapped this great photo (below).  It is a great photo sparking a history history lesson of years gone by.  This old original French equipment has laid here for years since it served both French and United States needs.  Across the Canal the Galapagos Discovery passenger ship lying on the bank after it's fiery end in 1999 (Click).  It too will be there for eternity unless Panama figures out a way to raise and move it.

After seeing this photo, I started digging for info.  This is the best part of loving the history of our great home.  Everywhere you turn, there is a story to be told. I did some research and found the specifics mentioned above.  Then, I looked for some photos of these grand old ladder dredges.  Here are a few showing the glory days of the ladder dredge to the dismantling and then to the point of what you see above in today's photo.